With all the data out there today, there seems to be an endless amount of knowledge available to everyone. The difficulty lies in deciding when to call upon it, how to efficiently retrieve it, or even verifying its authenticity. The ability to acquire, process, synthesize, and ultimately utilize knowledge and information is critical to the success of all individuals, businesses, and other entities. For that reason, the world’s top strategists have made intelligence operations a priority, and who better to model after than the global intelligence community (IC).
Here are three key IC applications every organization and their personnel can use:
1) The Intelligence Cycle
The intelligence cycle is a foundational component to the IC and is the continuous process of turning data into information that is useful for decision-making. The process breaks down as follows:
Planning and direction: Laying out the end-user’s intel objective and create a roadmap to achieve them.
Collection: Assemble the necessary data from available sources.
Processing and exploitation: Convert the data points into comprehensible and useful information.
Analysis and Production: Evaluate, synthesize, and transform information into the desired final format (report, graph, presentation, etc.).
Dissemination: Present final format to the end-user. If it agreed that the objective has been met – then case closed. If not, the cycle starts again.
Evaluation: Constantly acquire and evaluate feedback on each step, as well as the overall cycle. This is critical to identify opportunities for improvement and adjustment to meet end-user objectives.
2) Types of Intelligence
The IC produces multiple types of products that serve different purposes, and each one can be applied to your organization’s intelligence strategy. At a high level, three broad categories will be apart of every strong intel framework: current intelligence; trend analysis; and long-term assessments.
Current intelligence is your day-to-day analysis of the present landscape in your market, industry, country, etc. This is essentially ‘breaking news’ that is prioritized in terms of potential impact and consequences on the organization. This can also be a source of early-warning signals for future developments.
A trend analysis report provides deeper insights on single or multiple events and is far more extensive than current intelligence. This intel is vetted and cross-referenced across multiple intel sources over an extended period (weeks to months) to ensure the accuracy and credibility of reports. This helps analyze the impacts of new competitor products, geopolitical conflicts, consumer response to marketing campaigns, and more.
Building on trend analysis, long-term assessments are intelligence reports on an ongoing issue that often take months to produce. Whether it be a changing social landscape, evolving consumer interests, or even internal culture trends, long-term assessments can provide a detailed analysis and project future developments that will aid in an organization’s strategic response.
3) Intelligence Objectives
Each year, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) produces a report on its National Intelligence Strategy (NIS). This report contains several business and organizational applications, but the one most intriguing is the mission objectives. The ODNI describes these objectives as “the activities and outcomes necessary for the IC to deliver timely, insightful, objective, and relevant intelligence and support to its customers.” In the 2019 NIS, the first three mission objectives were broad and foundational by nature (such as current intelligence), and the remaining four addressed specific areas (such as cyber threats). When building your organizational intelligence framework, your mission objectives should follow a similar breakdown. Here is an example from a business perspective.
Given all the information available today, it is imperative that organizations develop a better understanding of the intelligence process, the different types of intel available, and setting intelligence objectives. Those that do will be able to filter through the noise and strategize accordingly. Those that do not are doomed to fail as they drown in a sea of endless data with no clear path forward.
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